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Berkshire Politicians Backing Grossman For Governor Days Before Primary

Jim Levulis

Primary elections in Massachusetts are less than one week away and elected officials in largely Democratic Berkshire County are overwhelmingly supporting one gubernatorial candidate, even though another is a Berkshires native.Three Democratic candidates are heading into the Sept. 9 primary in the race to succeed Governor Deval Patrick, who is not seeking a third term. The endorsed Democratic candidate is state Treasurer Steve Grossman, who faces Attorney General Martha Coakley and former federal healthcare administrator Don Berwick.Despite greater name recognition and roots in North Adams, Coakley hasn’t received much support from the county’s politicians. Instead, most, like State Representative Smitty Pignatelli of the Fourth Berkshire District, are backing Grossman.

“He’s got a long-standing working relationship with the legislature,” Pignatelli said. “I think for again governor that’s critically important.”  

Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi points toward Grossman’s role as chairman on the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s board of directors. Bianchi, a Democrat, says the treasurer has been a steady partner in the city’s efforts to open a career vocational and technical high school.

“He’d probably be the best person to continue the good work of Deval Patrick, but also to I think even set the bar higher and meet that higher standard when it comes to education and economic development,” said Bianchi.

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier also noted Grossman’s focus on the Taconic school project in Pittsfield.

“I think that speaks volumes,” Farley-Bouvier said. “That he cares about the whole state. Being governor of the whole state is very, very important to the people of the Berkshires.”

As vice chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education, Representative Paul Mark of the Second Berkshire District sees Grossman’s support for a tuition freeze as a factor in his support of the treasurer.

“When we both campaigning in 2010, I remember I saw him all over the state really working hard and he’s really kept up that pace throughout his term in office,” Mark said. “I think he has the best ideas, I really like that he’s committing to pushing for our tuition and fee freeze at all the public colleges and universities in the state, I think he has the right background, the right experience and I think he’d do the best job working with the legislature.”

But North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, a former classmate of Coakley’s, is sticking by her side.

“There are very differently qualified gubernatorial candidates,” Alcombright said. “I think there are certainly assets in all of them, but my support goes with Martha. I think she’s the woman for the job and I think she’ll do a great job at that.”

State Representative Gailanne Cariddi of North Adams is also backing Grossman, citing his helping hand with ongoing renovations at the Colegrove Park Elementary School and the recently completed Hoosac Valley Middle and High School in her district. Cariddi says she’s not sure why Coakley isn’t receiving as much support from her own backyard.

“I have great respect for her work as attorney general,” Cariddi said. “I think that it could go back to just good old-fashioned democratic politics.”

State Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield is co-chair of the Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign and is not yet supporting any one candidate.

Endorsed Republican candidate Charlie Baker faces a primary challenge from Mark Fisher. In a state with a history of electing Republican governors despite being overwhelmingly blue, Pignatelli says whoever the Democrats send forward needs the support of those who fell short.

“I hope that we do more than just lip service and the pat on the back,” Pignatelli said. “We’ve got to unify the party because it’s going to be very difficult no matter who the nominee is.”

Independents Evan Falchuk, Jeff McCormick and Scott Lively will also be on November’s ballot.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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